There's just so much to like about this disc, the second from Oakland-based Delta Wires. The songs, all originals, are top-notch, mining a bluesy R&B groove similar to that of Boston's Love Dogs; the band features a full-blown, brassy horn section with no less than five pieces, along with keys, percussion (in addition to drums, not instead), and lots of background vocalists to support lead singer/harmonicist Ernie Pinata . . . and yet, somehow, it just doesn't seem to click.
Perhaps it's because Mr. Pinata - who wrote or co-wrote every tune here, most with the assistance of guitarist Bobby Delgado - took on too much while trying to arrange such a formidable ensemble as well as produce the disc; production, it seems, is where the disc falls short.
It's not the songs themselves; there are catchy hooks to spare, intricate changes aplenty, and lots of variety, from the vaguely zydeco-like groove of the opener, "Honey Bee" (not the Muddy tune, this one's courtesy of the aforementioned team of Pinata/Delgado) to the straight soul of "Tears Like Rain" (cheesy synthesized strings all but ruin this one). There are shuffles ("Back In Town," Lonesome Blues") and lots of funk ("Travelin,'" "Leaner Days," "She's Out The Door"). Instrumental contributions leave nothing to be desired, the band is tight enough, and Mr. Pinata, while not likely to win a Handy on harp, is a fine frontman, his vocals full of the swaggering assurance the material needs.
I 'd guess the Delta Wires would be a great band to see live, but somehow the project as a whole just lacks that certain punch that would raise it from ordinary to essential. It's good, and would no doubt serve as a fine souvenir to take home after a show. But there's no shortage of good discs out there. This one, for all its promise and despite many fine elements, simply doesn't catch fire. Satisfying, perhaps, but why choose a burger when there's steak enough to be had?
If you're absolutely rabid about horn-driven, R&B influenced blues and can't get enough, then sure, check this one out. Otherwise, I'd have to say there are better places to start.
Simply click on the CD cover at left to order other CDs from this group!
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